Perinatal depression: What women should know

Depression during and after pregnancy, called perinatal depression affects 1 in 7 women. Learn about the condition and how you or someone you love can get help.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), perinatal depression, or depression that happens during and after pregnancy, is one of the most common medical complications during pregnancy and the postpartum period. ACOG estimates it affects 1 in 7 women —  left untreated, it can affect the health of the mother, baby and entire family. Here are some things to know about perinatal depression, including how to ask for help.

Depression and anxiety are complications of pregnancy and childbirth –– just like any other complications a woman can experience

Depression and anxiety are complications of pregnancy and childbirth –– just like any other complications a woman can experience

“Postpartum depression is one of the most common complications of childbirth,” said Crista L. Hays, M.D., OB/GYN with Norton Women’s Care.

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Women who have a history of depression and anxiety can be at greater risk for developing perinatal depression and anxiety. There are other factors that can contribute, including birth trauma, strife within relationships, poverty and history of abuse. Big life transitions, such as losing a loved one, getting a new job, pregnancy and childbirth can trigger depression and anxiety symptoms due to the stress involved within the transitions.

What are perinatal depression symptoms?

Perinatal depression and anxiety are different from the “baby blues,” a natural phenomenon that happens in the postpartum period where women may feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster. Perinatal depression symptoms can include:

  • Anger: Parents may cycle through anger and guilt at a partner or the baby.
  • Crying, sadness and trouble concentrating: A persistent low mood can include difficulty getting out of bed, difficulty concentrating and difficulty with self-care such as eating, sleeping and bathing.
  • Severe anxiety: Anxiety can appear as heightened worries around parenting as well as panic attacks.
  • Struggling with caring for self and others: If a parent feels disconnected from their child, it is a sign to get help. Not eating, showering, or being able to complete everyday tasks or tasks related to the care of their child can all be signs.
  • Symptoms last for two weeks or more: Baby blues often resolve in the first two weeks after birth. If a parent is experiencing perinatal depression, they may experience symptoms daily for longer than two weeks.

What to do if you’re experiencing perinatal symptoms

ACOG recommends that physicians screen pregnant women and new mothers for depression and help them get treatment if they’re at risk. Norton Healthcare OB/GYN practices screen for perinatal depression during and after pregnancy to help direct women to the care they need.

If you’re feeling symptoms of perinatal depression, Dr. Hays suggests being direct with your health care provider.

“It’s OK to tell your doctor: ‘I’m really struggling, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t sleep.’ Be direct about your exact symptoms,” Dr. Hays said. “Admitting your struggles doesn’t mean you’re weak or a bad mom. It means you are owning your health and getting the care you need.”

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